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Réginald Auger

Professor of archaeology

Département des sciences historiques – CELAT, Université Laval, Québec, Canada

Slavery and memory in French Guiana: Designing the commemoration of memory at the Loyola cemetery while respecting sensibilities of history

March 2nd, 2015

Academic Building A G008, 5:05 PM


Our paper is an overview of the results of our archaeological work at the Loyola plantation, a sugar plantation operated by the Jesuits in Guyana from 1665 until the expulsion of the Jesuits from French Guyana in 1763. That plantation is located 10 km from Cayenne on a track of land covering an area of approximately 1000 hectares. At times, up to 500 slaves worked there to produce a number of cash crops such as sugar, coffee, indigo, rum etc. under the close supervision of a handful of missionaries. The production was exported to Europe to provide funding to support Jesuit missions among Brazil’s First Nations. We present a brief history of this house and the place occupied by missionaries in the colonial adventure. We discuss the role they played in the economy of the French colony rather marginal compared to that observed for other Caribbean islands. After nearly 20 years of research at that archaeological site, we are now at the point of communicating the results to a wider audience, namely, the local population. We present a commemoration concept which takes into account the sensibilities of descendants from the slave trade period in French Guiana. From the remains of the cemetery where approximately 1000 people (Slaves, Amerindian and White land owners) have been interred, our motivation is to determine the fine line that separates between commemoration of memory and glorification of history. Memory of the trade period is indeed a very sensitive issue among residents of most Caribbean Islands and we use our research to present the various questions with which we are confronted in order for the local population to appropriate the spirit of place.


Graduated from the University of Calgary, Réginald Auger is professor of archeology at Université Laval since 1994. He teaches courses on the theory and practice of archeology and supervises students in his field of specialization which is the modern period. With funding from FRQ-SC, he assembled from the start a research group in archaeometry and acted, through a CFI initiative, as the founding leader of the Laboratoires d’archéologie de l’Université Laval for which he acts as Director. In addition to his research on Quebec City archaeology, Auger’s current research is on a sugar plantation in French Guiana. His research on the Elizabethan search for precious-metal bearing ore, a multidisciplinary research project on the voyages of Martin Frobisher to Baffin Island, was carried out in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution during the 1990’s. He has been Program Director of the archaeology, ethnology and museology programs from 2001-2004 and Director of CELAT from 2006-2009, a research center including 30 members from four universities; he currently supervises or co-supervises 14 graduate students in Canada, United States and France.


Reading will be posted to the EvoS blackboard group. Anyone with a Binghamton University email address can request to be added to the blackboard group by emailing EvoS[at]binghamton[dot]edu.


Will be available within a week of the talk.



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